- South Africa’s top expert in infectious diseases has asked billionaires to help fight coronavirus variants in Africa.
- Tulio de Oliveira said Africa needs financial support “to control and turn off varieties.”
- His prayer comes amid concerns about a “worrying” new variant that has spread rapidly across southern Africa.
South Africa’s leading expert in infectious diseases has appealed to the world’s billionaires for financial support to Africa after a coronavirus variant with a worrying number of mutations appeared in the country.
Tulio de Oliveira, Director of the South African Center for Epidemic Response and Innovation, said on Twitter Thursday that the new variant, which is now responsible for the majority of new COVID-19 cases in the country, was “really worrying” in terms of its mutations.
de Oliveira begged “all billionaires in this world” to support Africa financially to “control and turn off variants,” and name-checked Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos. He also begged the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and others to help fund the fight.
“By protecting its poor and oppressed people, we will protect the world,” de Oliveira said. “Our poor and disadvantaged people cannot be imprisoned without financial support.”
South Africa has been praised for its rapid response in detecting the variant, B.1.1.529, and sounding the alarm.
B.1.1.529 has 32 mutations in the part of the virus that binds to cells – which is also the target of most existing vaccines and antibody drugs. This can make the virus more contagious and existing vaccines less effective against it.
Adrian Puren, acting chief executive of South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases, said in a statement on Thursday that experts were “working overtime” to understand the new variant and its implications.